Tag Archives: coming home

Caregiving

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a mandala of the supermoon and trees in a kaleidoscope of tears.It was late when we got the discharge papers and I drove my friend Annette home from Cayuga Medical Center. Even my son was fast asleep by the time I pulled into my own driveway. But I was wide awake, my head pulsing with something like pride. With memories: home from the hospital. It transported me back to the times in and out of hospitals with my daughter during her almost-three years of cancer. Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester is the place I last “left” Marika. The hospital is where I first learned I was a caregiver.

When one you love becomes sick, you become a caregiver. No references or prior experience necessary. You learn on the job. Patience. Attentiveness. Compassion. You learn to let go of what you cannot control. You learn how much there is to lose: breath, balance, mobility, independence, …hope. The certainty of being able to go home.

“When can I go home?” is what everyone asks in the hospital, sitting around waiting, watching the world pass you by while you’re stuck there. The goal is to get out. But for me, for almost three years, my whole world was right there in the hospital. Whenever I left without Marika, my heart was tethered to that place. Maybe it still is.

In the end, I did not bring my daughter home. Instead, I dragged home the heartbroken remains of who I was, and the beginnings of the person I would grow into over the next years: one who loves life and doesn’t discount it by who or how much she’s lost, but rather gauges good living by what she can put right and save.

“It feels good to be needed again, to be able to help,” I’d said, when I delivered Annette to her apartment and she thanked me like I’d given her gold. Then the waning supermoon followed me home across two hills and a valley, peeking through clouds and bare branches. It made a giant mesh of moon-shadows in my driveway. Almost midnight, everything was silent and still. Except for me. I felt like skipping. Dancing in the moonlight. And I don’t know if I was speaking to the moon, my daughter’s spirit, or God when I whispered, “Hey. I brought someone home tonight.” The moon, the branches, my pride, longing, love, and gratitude were all kaleidoscoped by my tears.

 

What makes you want to sing and dance in the moonlight at midnight?

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Changes at Home

Robin botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs home with her inherited Havanese dog.In my home, where I sing and dance, and talk out loud to the life-size portrait of my dead daughter when I’m not talking to my inherited dog, I nervously picked crumbs off the floors. My friend Hussein was on his way over to see the guest room. I’d never rented it to a guy before. And I was afraid Hussein didn’t like dogs. So when he pulled up in his car, I scooped Suki into my arms before she could erupt into her ferocious greeting.

“Come in,” I said, squeezing Suki. She squirmed and emitted small choking sounds through the hand I’d clamped over her snout. Hussein’s eyes ricocheted off every surface of the house, and I wondered if he spotted spider webs in the corners or the mezuzah with the tiny Hebrew prayer scroll that my uncle Max had given me as a housewarming gift fifteen years ago.

“This is home,” I said, surveying the walls covered with photos of my daughter, the cracked concrete countertops, the stacks of papers, the view of the pond. Suki growled in my arms. “This is the bathroom,” I said, grateful the kitty litter from my old cat no longer monopolized the space. “Here’s the laundry room.” I remembered bottomless piles of clothes from a long gone husband and young children. “The dog chews holes in your underwear if you leave it on the floor,” I said. Hussein looked at Suki. She grunted.

“She doesn’t like men,” I stated, bouncing her. “This is the work table.” Visions of children doing homework flashed in my head. Suki writhed. “Is it okay to let her down?” Hussein assured me he had no problems with dogs. I put Suki on the floor.

“That’s the upstairs where my son lives when he’s in town. He comes and goes at weird hours. You get used to it.” I thought of the mess upstairs, except for the quiet room that was my daughter’s. “We’re not going there,” I said. “Here’s your room (if you take it). Oh, we get an occasional mouse in the house,” I added, needing to divulge all the shortcomings. In my mind, I saw the last girl who lived in the guest room. She didn’t mind mice. She would sit, reading on the bed amid perfumed pillows. Suki used to invite herself up on the bed to sit by her. Suki loved that last girl.
“Your dog loves me,” Hussein said. His head was bent at a strange angle. “What is she doing?” he asked. I looked down and saw Suki was wrapped firmly around his leg. Horrified, I stood speechless.
“She’s humping you,” I finally spit out the only words I could come up with.

A couple of weeks later Hussein called to say he would not need the room. By then, I had told myself there’d be no more prancing around in pajamas with a guy in the house. So it was a relief to know home would not have to change in that regard. I felt sorry though, for Suki.

 

What are the differences between your house and your home?

 

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